With the secular media convinced that Pope Francis is on the verge of disavowing Christianity (that, of course, excludes those of you reading this who are already convince Catholics jettisoned Christianity centuries ago), a very unremarkable statement by him set the internet buzzing:
Pope Francis has waded into the controversial debate over the origins of human life, saying the big bang theory did not contradict the role of a divine creator, but even required it.
The pope was addressing the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which gathered Monday at the Vatican to discuss “Evolving Concepts of Nature.”
“When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so,” Francis said.
“He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfillment.”
Francis said the beginning of the world was not “a work of chaos” but created from a principle of love. He said sometimes competing beliefs in creation and evolution could co-exist.
From a Catholic perspective this has not been a subject of debate for a while. Back in 1950, Pope Pius XII addressed evolution in the encyclical Humani Generis (Friend of the Human Race):
“For these reasons the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter — for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God. However this must be done in such a way that the reasons for both opinions, that is, those favorable and those unfavorable to evolution, be weighed and judged with the necessary seriousness, moderation and measure, and provided that all are prepared to submit to the judgment of the Church, to whom Christ has given the mission of interpreting authentically the Sacred Scriptures and of defending the dogmas of faithful Some however rashly transgress this liberty of discussion, when they act as if the origin of the human body from preexisting and living matter were already completely certain and proved by the facts which have been discovered up to now and by reasoning on those facts, and as if there were nothing in the sources of divine revelation which demands the greatest moderation and caution in this question.”
With the same clear and critical look with which it examines and passes judgment on facts, it perceives and recognizes the work of creative omnipotence, whose power, set in motion by the mighty “Fiat” pronounced billions of years ago by the Creating Spirit, spread out over the universe, calling into existence with a gesture of generous love matter busting with energy. In fact, it would seem that present-day science, with one sweeping step back across millions of centuries, has succeeded in bearing witness to that primordial “Fiat lux” uttered at the moment when, along with matter, there burst forth from nothing a sea of light and radiation, while the particles of chemical elements split and formed into millions of galaxies.”
There is nothing radical in Pope Francis’s statement. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
159 Faith and science: “Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth.”37 “Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are.”38
So naturally when Pope Francis made this statement, serial fabulist, self-absorbed douche and pop science impresario Neil DeGrasse Tyson used his Twitter account to comment:
Pope Francis announced that he now embraces the science of Evolution & the Big Bang. Hmm. I wonder if he just watched Cosmos?
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) October 29, 2014
I don’t believe Tyson actually thinks the Pope watches his television show but it is clear that he thinks the Pope is making some earthshaking statement. Rather it shows that while the Pope understands the role of faith and reason in human life, Tyson is more than a little unclear on which lane he should stay in. This drawing of a crude caricature of someone he disagrees with has been Tyson’s stock in trade for a while as documented by Sean Davis at The Federalist. And the conflating of all Christian belief on Creation into some crabbed philosophy held by a very small number of Christians is just another example of his profound lack of education outside his academic discipline, his contempt for those who believe differently, and his general dishonesty.